Comments dressage judges make when things don’t go to plan – and what we think they really mean!
The wonderful thing about dressage is it’s a learning experience every time. There’s no other discipline where a judge’s every thought is listed for you. Years of practice has made most judges masters of tact, so if you’ve had a test where things haven’t gone quite as well as they might, they’re still able to put a positive spin in their comments. Here are some you may recognise.
Always a nice compliment to receive, but while it’s very flattering, you can’t help but wonder whether there wasn’t much else to say about your test.
I once got ‘Shows potential’ – aka, the test wasn’t great, but please come back and try again another time! Rachel Dyke, Staff Writer
Usually received if you’ve completed your test at no less than 100 miles per hour and your horse has thrown in a few extra unasked-for movements for brownie points. These include canter in an Intro test, changes in a Prelim and a speedy half-pass at Novice – or was it a spook?
My favourite comment was ‘Very exuberant’ – in other words, I flew around the arena out of control and my horse proceeded to show off in a rather unladylike manner. Sophie Rigby, Designer
Well, there you have it – you’re definitely doing something right! It’s just unclear how frequently and for how long. However, everyone’s got to start somewhere and you clearly have some strong foundations to build on.
The judge knows you rode your socks off, it just didn’t quite come together today. The circles were a bit on the square side, the medium strides didn’t quite happen and the free walk was an excuse to grab a snack – but it’s nice to have your efforts appreciated.
Your horse did everything he could with the tools at his disposal, but his performance was somewhat hindered by a rider error or two… or three.
My most memorable comment was ‘He’s got character!’ – needless to say I had a very naughty horse that day. Georgia Guerin, PONY Assistant Editor
‘It just wasn’t your day’
The judge can see you’ve got the goods and have put in the work, but you just didn’t reap the rewards this time. Maybe you got halfway through the test and your mind went blank or your horse spotted a few gremlins, but you kept your cool and carried on – next time will be a different story!
I had a very unsuccessful Prelim on our family cob once and was rewarded with brutal honesty – ‘Went outside markers and broke them’! Bethany Searby, Editorial Assistant
‘Nicely turned out’
Bling can hide a multitude of sins, but judges have a pretty keen eye. Maybe you learnt your test hurriedly the night before and overcompensated with a little shine, but you’ve got one thing no scoresheet can take away – style.
The best comment I’ve had was ‘Beautiful tail plait’ – they were clearly having to work hard for something positive to say! Lucy Turner, Acting Editor